SOMETHING TO WATCH … THE NEXT BIG THING: NYT’S MAGGIE HABERMAN had an exchange with SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS at yesterday’s press briefing on a topic that is going to get a lot of attention going forward.
HABERMAN: “Russian authorities yesterday named several Americans who they want to question, who they claim were involved in Bill Browder’s ‘crimes,’ in their terms, including a former ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul. Does President Trump support that idea? Is he open to having U.S. officials questioned by Russia?”
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SANDERS: “The president is going to meet with his team, and we’ll let you know when we have an announcement on that.”
HABERMAN: “[I]s that a topic that came up in their conversation? Did President Putin raise this with President Trump?”
SANDERS: “There was some conversation about it, but there wasn’t a commitment made on behalf of the United States. And the president will work with his team, and we’ll let you know if there’s an announcement on that front.”
LET’S TAKE A STEP BACK: MCFAUL is a former U.S. ambassador to Russia who is now a fellow at the Hoover Institute at Stanford, a university at which he has spent years. He’s an academic, who served for five years in the Obama administration in D.C. and Moscow. McFaul has been a critic of both Vladimir Putin and Trump. But the idea that the Trump administration would hand over a former U.S. ambassador to a hostile leader is not going to sit well with many.
— MCFAUL in POLITICO Magazine May 19, 2018: “Putin Hazed Me: How I Was Stalked, Harassed and Surveilled by Kremlin Stooges” http://bit.ly/2L8r2Wr
Asked about this episode, THE STATE DEPARTMENT’S HEATHER NAUERT said the “Russian assertions are absolutely absurd at this point.”
BRIAN MCKEON, former Defense and NSC official, (@bpmckeon64): “THREAD: 1/Can @McFaul be questioned by the Russians for alleged crimes? Only if we have govt failure of the most malicious sort. First, he’s protected for any acts while ambassador with full diplomatic immunity. If Pompeo waives it, he’ll lose all support inside his building.” http://bit.ly/2A1pTej
CHUCK SCHUMER (@SenSchumer): “The President won’t rule out turning an American public servant over to Vladimir Putin, but tomorrow I hope the Senate will.”
Good Thursday morning. CBS’ JEFF GLOR interviewed PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP at the WHITE HOUSE Wednesday.
GLOR: “You say you agree with U.S. intelligence that Russia meddled in the election in 2016?” TRUMP: “Yeah and I’ve said that before, Jeff. I have said that numerous times before, and I would say that that is true, yeah.”
GLOR: “But you haven’t condemned Putin, specifically. Do you hold him personally responsible?” TRUMP: “Well I would, because he’s in charge of the country. Just like I consider myself to be responsible for things that happen in this country. So, certainly as the leader of a country you would have to hold him responsible, yes.” …
GLOR: “On Saturday you told us — your doctrine is strength.” TRUMP: “Strength.” GLOR: “And achieving peace through strength.” TRUMP: “Right.” GLOR: “After Helsinki– Lindsey Graham said you showed weakness.” TRUMP: “Well, Lindsey, you know, you’re gonna have to lemme just—” GLOR: “Newt Gingrich said it was the most serious mistake in your presidency.”
TRUMP: “Lemme just — I — I totally disagree. I think I did great at the news conference. I think it was a strong news conference. You have people that said, ‘You shoulda gone up to him. You shoulda walked up and — started screaming in his face.’ We’re living in the real world. OK?”
WHAT TRUMP KNEW, AND WHEN … NYT’S DAVID SANGER and MATT ROSENBERG on A1: “From the Start, Trump Has Muddied a Clear Message: Putin Interfered”: “Two weeks before his inauguration, Donald J. Trump was shown highly classified intelligence indicating that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had personally ordered complex cyberattacks to sway the 2016 American election. The evidence included texts and emails from Russian military officers and information gleaned from a top-secret source close to Mr. Putin, who had described to the C.I.A. how the Kremlin decided to execute its campaign of hacking and disinformation.
“Mr. Trump sounded grudgingly convinced, according to several people who attended the intelligence briefing. But ever since, Mr. Trump has tried to cloud the very clear findings that he received on Jan. 6, 2017, which his own intelligence leaders have unanimously endorsed. The shifting narrative underscores the degree to which Mr. Trump regularly picks and chooses intelligence to suit his political purposes.” https://nyti.ms/2NZO3II
MEANWHILE … ON THE OTHER END OF PENNSYLVANIA AVE. — “Trump’s Russia spin falls flat with GOP,” by Burgess Everett and Eliana Johnson: “The more President Donald Trump talks about Russia, the more Republicans cringe.
“The president’s effort to clean up his disastrous Monday press conference is falling flat on Capitol Hill — and White House aides are doing little to assuage an increasingly frustrated GOP. The reason: Threats from Republican lawmakers about confronting the president or pushing bills to punish Russia for further election interference are ringing hollow inside the White House, which has grown accustomed to panic, followed by inaction, on Capitol Hill.
“A number of hawkish senators alarmed by the president’s remarks have yet to hear from Chief of Staff John Kelly, who frequently reassures nervous Republicans, and some senators are barreling forward with efforts to combat Russian interference in the fall elections. Increasingly, they view their own efforts to combat Russia as distinctly separate from whatever Trump or his administration is doing or saying at any given time.” https://bit.ly/2uGuUTs
****** A message from the Alzheimer’s Association: Alzheimer’s is the most expensive disease in the country. Every hour, Alzheimer’s costs taxpayers $21 million dollars. Today, Alzheimer’s costs the country $277 billion a year and that will quadruple to more than $1 trillion over the next generation. Funding for Alzheimer’s research must increase. Learn more at alz.org/askcongress ******
THIS IS CONCERNING … “As Russians describe ‘verbal agreements’ at summit, U.S. officials scramble for clarity,” by WaPo’s Karen DeYoung, Missy Ryan and Anton Troianovski: “Two days after President Trump’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russian officials offered a string of assertions about what the two leaders had achieved.
“‘Important verbal agreements’ were reached at the Helsinki meeting, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, told reporters in Moscow Wednesday, including preservation of the New Start and INF agreements, major bilateral arms control treaties whose futures have been in question. Antonov also said that Putin had made ‘specific and interesting proposals to Washington’ on how the two countries could cooperate on Syria.
“But officials at the most senior levels across the U.S. military, scrambling since Monday to determine what Trump may have agreed to on national security issues in Helsinki, had little to no information Wednesday.” https://wapo.st/2Ntd6To
ERIC GELLER: “States slow to prepare for hacking threats: Most states aren’t planning to use federal funds to make major election upgrades before November”: “[L]ess than four months before the midterm elections that will shape the rest of Donald Trump’s presidency, most states’ election offices have failed to fix their most glaring security weaknesses, according to a POLITICO survey of all 50 states. And few states are planning steps that would improve their safeguards before November, even after they receive their shares of the $380 million in election security funding that Congress approved in March.
“Only 13 states said they intend to use the federal dollars to buy new voting machines. At least 22 said they have no plans to replace their machines before the election — including all five states that rely solely on paperless electronic voting devices, which cybersecurity experts consider a top vulnerability.” http://bit.ly/2uO8UWL
WHAT’S ON PRESIDENT TRUMP’S MIND — @realDonaldTrump at 9:53 p.m.: “A total disgrace that Turkey will not release a respected U.S. Pastor, Andrew Brunson, from prison. He has been held hostage far too long. @RT_Erdogan should do something to free this wonderful Christian husband & father. He has done nothing wrong, and his family needs him!”
RACHAEL BADE, whose birthday is today: “‘A difficult situation’: Republican women run in the Trump era”: “Interviews with more than a half-dozen female GOP lawmakers and candidates revealed what [Rep. Ileana] Ros-Lehtinen called the ‘difficult situation’ many of them face: Like male GOP lawmakers who go against Trump, Republican women who blast the president risk alienating a base they need for reelection, as Roby did. Failing to speak up, however, risks turning off independent-minded women who are skeptical of the president, a key voting bloc.” http://bit.ly/2JAw746
NBC’S LESTER HOLT interviewed FBI DIRECTOR CHRISTOPHER WRAY at the Aspen Security Forum.
— ON TRUMP’S COMMENTS ON RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE: “He’s got his view. He’s expressed his view. I can tell you what my view is. The intelligence community’s assessment has not changed. My view has not changed, which is that Russia attempted to interfere with the last election and that it continues to engage in maligned influence operations to this day.”
— RESPONDING TO TRUMP’S “WITCH HUNT”: “I’ve been consistent. I’ve been asked this a lot. I do not believe special counsel Mueller is on a ‘witch hunt.’ I think it’s a professional investigation conducted by a man that I’ve known to be a straight shooter.”
— ON WHETHER HE’S CONSIDERED RESIGNING: “I’m a low-key, understated guy, but that should not be mistaken for what my spine is made out of. I’ll just leave it at that.” Full video http://bit.ly/2uyHx3R
HEATHER CAYGLE on another HOUSE DEMOCRAT REBOOT … “House Democrats have finalized their campaign slogan heading into the last months before the midterm election: ‘For the People.’ The new motto, which Democratic leaders unveiled in a private meeting with members Wednesday morning, is meant to put a finer point on the broad economic-based messaging Democrats have been pushing with mixed success since last summer.
“That initial message — a ‘Better Deal’ — has largely failed to break through with voters and has been openly mocked by some Democratic lawmakers. House Democrats plan to begin working ‘For the People’ into their statements and press conferences, with a focus on three key areas: addressing health care and prescription drug costs; increasing wages through infrastructure and public works projects; and highlighting Republican corruption in Washington.” http://bit.ly/2JAjJRE
— FOR THE PEOPLE is already getting mocked by Democrats. It’s the slogan of Morgan and Morgan, the law firm Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.) once worked for. LET’S BE CLEAR: These slogans don’t mean much anyway. Both parties try to come up with one for each election cycle.
ISAAC DOVERE, “Michelle Obama wades into the midterms”: “Michelle Obama is jumping into the 2018 campaigns with a voter registration initiative that will be strictly nonpartisan — exciting and frustrating top Democrats who’d like the popular former first lady to actively campaign for candidates. …
“It will have the former first lady appear in public service announcements and at live events throughout the country into the fall, according to multiple people informed of the plans. She’ll be joined by several A-list celebrities, including actor Tom Hanks, country stars Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, Houston Rockets star Chris Paul, singer Janelle Monae and ‘Hamilton’ creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. The first PSA will go out Thursday, with more in the process of being lined up, featuring other prominent activists and players.” http://bit.ly/2zUqpdS
K-FILE STRIKES AGAIN — “A GOP congressman once lamented not being able to call women ‘sluts’ anymore,” by CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski, Chris Massie and Nathan McDermott: “A Republican congressman from Minnesota has a long history of making deeply misogynistic comments on the radio, including lamenting that women can no longer be called ‘sluts.’
“CNN’s KFile reviewed several months of audio from Rep. Jason Lewis on the ‘Jason Lewis Show,’ a syndicated radio program Lewis hosted from 2009 until 2014 with the tagline ‘America’s Mr. Right.’ In one instance, while arguing that ‘young single women’ vote based on coverage of birth control pills, Lewis said those women were not human beings and were without brains.
“Lewis, who was narrowly elected to represent Minnesota’s 2nd District in 2016, is considered one of the most endangered House Republicans in the midterm election. CNN rates the race as a ‘toss up,’ the most competitive designation. Lewis can be heard on the radio repeatedly demeaning women, and particularly women voters, in 15 months of audio provided to KFile by Michael Brodkorb, the former deputy chair of the Republican Party of Minnesota.” https://cnn.it/2O0hLxu
— @alanhe: “VIDEO: CBS News asked Congressman Jason Lewis about the @KFILE report that he lamented not being able to call women ‘sluts.’ He responded by LOL’ing. Then says his comments were ‘taken out of context’ and gets on a freight elevator.” 20-second video http://bit.ly/2mrG9LL
THE INVESTIGATIONS …
— POLITICO GETS RESULTS: “Interior watchdog opens probe of land deal linking Zinke, Halliburton chairman,” by Ben Lefebvre: “The Interior Department’s internal watchdog has launched a full investigation into a real estate deal involving a foundation established by Ryan Zinke and developers including Halliburton Chairman David Lesar, which was first reported by POLITICO last month, according to a letter the office sent to House Democrats on Wednesday. The inspector general’s probe will focus on whether Zinke violated conflict of interest laws, the latest official inquiry of Zinke’s activities in his 16 months helming the department.” http://bit.ly/2Lw2mmQ … The original POLITICO story http://bit.ly/2JzBm4d
TRADE WARS – “Trump Threatens Auto Tariffs Despite Widespread Opposition,” by WSJ’s Chester Dawson and Josh Zumbrun: “President Donald Trump stood by his threats to levy sweeping tariffs on automobile imports as a way to extract concessions from trading partners, despite opposition from the industry and discontent in Congress with the White House’s proposal.
“Resistance to the tariffs is strong and growing. A coalition of foreign and domestic auto companies, along with auto dealers and auto-parts makers, released a letter on Wednesday urging Mr. Trump to refrain from the tariffs. A bipartisan group of 149 House members also urged the president not to move forward with the tariffs. …
“[A]t a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Mr. Trump threatened ‘tremendous retribution’ against the European Union, specifically mentioning auto tariffs, if his meeting with EU officials next week doesn’t yield what he considers a fair auto trade deal.” https://on.wsj.com/2uOqzgY
TRUMP’S THURSDAY — The president is meeting with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. He will have lunch with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and in the afternoon hold a “Pledge to America’s Workers” event.
COVERS DU JOUR – Time’s new cover shows Trump and Putin’s faces blended together – http://bit.ly/2L4gSWN … Barry Blitt’s latest cover for the New Yorker shows Trump flopped down at the bottom of the Trump Tower escalator: http://bit.ly/2O2yekS
FIRST FAMILY – “Don Jr. and Eric Trump racked up nearly $250,000 in Secret Service costs in one month, watchdog says,” by Stephanie Murray: “One month of Secret Service protection for Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. cost taxpayers close to a quarter of a million dollars last year, according to new spending documents obtained by a watchdog group.
“The president’s sons traveled overseas for Trump family business on two trips that cost the Secret Service nearly $250,000. Taxpayers footed the bill for hundreds of thousands of dollars in hotels, airfare and other costs for Secret Service protection, according to documents obtained by nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.” http://bit.ly/2uxYcnV
HOUSE CLEANING … “Trump loyalists at VA shuffling, purging employees before new secretary takes over,” by WaPo’s Lisa Rein: “Ahead of Robert Wilkie’s likely confirmation to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, Trump loyalists at the agency are taking aggressive steps to purge or reassign staff members perceived to be disloyal to President Trump and his agenda for veterans, according to multiple people familiar with the moves. The transfers include more than a dozen career civil servants who have been moved from the leadership suite at VA headquarters and reassigned to lower-visibility roles.
“The employees served agency leaders, some dating back more than two decades, in crucial support roles that help a new secretary. None said they were given reasons for their reassignments. The moves are being carried out by a small cadre of political appointees led by Acting Secretary Peter O’Rourke who have consolidated power in the four months since they helped oust Secretary David Shulkin.” https://wapo.st/2Lte69z
****** A message from the Alzheimer’s Association: Costing taxpayers $21 million every HOUR, Alzheimer’s is the most expensive disease in the country. More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s and 16 million family and friends are providing care. Alzheimer’s is a national issue, and needs a national response. Alzheimer’s yearly cost of $277 billion will quadruple to more than $1 trillion over the next generation – a crisis we cannot afford and shouldn’t accept. While it is the only leading cause of death that can’t be prevented, cured, or even slowed, research and medical advancement can change that. That’s why the Alzheimer’s Association is fighting to end the disease through the advancement of research, while also providing care and support for all affected. Learn more at alz.org/askcongress. ******
WHAT ELON MUSK IS UP TO … “Musk Enlisted Sierra Club to Deflect Flak Over GOP Donation,” by Bloomberg’s Josh Eidelson: “Elon Musk personally dialed up the head of the environmental group the Sierra Club and asked for help with deflecting criticism over donations that the chairman of Tesla Inc. made to Republicans, according to an email that the head of the nonprofit sent to his staff.
“Musk on Saturday called Michael Brune, the Sierra Club’s executive director, and asked that he make public more than $6 million in contributions to the group that had been anonymous, Brune wrote in the email. Musk also enlisted Brune to vouch for him on Twitter to quell a firestorm over the billionaire’s $38,900 contribution to a committee that benefits congressional Republicans including House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.” https://bloom.bg/2O2oVkO
MEDIAWATCH … ATLANTIC HIRING SPREE – Per Michael Calderone in Morning Media: “[T]he Atlantic is now embarking on a ‘radical expansion of our coverage,’ says [editor Jeff] Goldberg … The Atlantic is posting 10 new jobs today, including three White House reporters and two Pentagon reporters. There are also new openings to cover the State Department, intelligence, immigration and politics.” http://bit.ly/2Np1roP
SPOTTED: John Boehner eating outside last night at Trattoria Alberto
BIRTHWEEK (was Tuesday): John Frank, VP of EU government affairs at Microsoft, turned 6-0 (hat tip: daughter Carla)
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Marlon Marshall, 270 Strategies founding partner and an Obama and HFA alum. How he got his start in politics: “Volunteered on campaigns while at the University of Kansas (Rock Chalk!), then worked on John Kerry’s race in 2004 as an organizer. Loved working with volunteers every day to make a difference in their communities.” Read his Playbook Plus Q&A: http://bit.ly/2uNjj4T
BIRTHDAYS: Ben Jenkins, partner at Locust Street Group (h/t Kelly Klass) … Rachel Craddock, WH press assistant (h/t Ninio Fetalvo) … Lyndon Boozer of AT&T Federal Relations (h/t wife Karen Anderson) … Larry McCarthy, political/corporate admaker … Rep. Ron Estes (R-Kan.) is 62 … journalist and writer Eric Lichtblau (h/t Tim Burger) … WSJ’s Rebecca Ballhaus (h/t Byron Tau) … Politico’s Rachael Bade and Lauren Gardner … Patrick Brennan, director of speechwriting at HHS … Ben Lipson (h/t Natalie Boyse) … Dylan Riddle … Donna Shor … Joshua Holmes of NYC DOE … Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) is 45 … Carmel Ferrer … Maria Giannopoulos … Romney alum Sarah Haley … Isaac Arnsdorf, who covers Trump for ProPublica … ALEC’s Joe Goetz, who has joined the board of the non-profit Veterans Next Mission …
… Howard Schultz, former executive chairman and CEO of Starbucks, is 65 … Lauren Selsky, supervising producer at ABC News Australia … Andrea Palermo … Vivi Zigler … Lindsee Gentry, strategic advisor and comms director at FERC (h/t Neil Chatterjee) … Trevor Gervais … Charles Watkins, the pride of Chicago (h/t Julie Sarne) … Dan Wilner (h/t Nadia Szold) … Jennifer Skalka Tulumello … Stephen Ching … Nick Smith … Wade Lairsen … NBC News’ Alex Johnson … Ron Faucheux … Carmen Magaña Pummill … Kenn Campbell … former Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.) is 63 (h/t Lou Penrose) … Stephen Ching … LaVenia J. LaVelle … Stephanie Valencia of InvestingIn.US … journalist Atossa Araxia Abrahamian … Jessica Tully … Miranda Tully … Bill Hyers … George Rakis (h/ts Teresa Vilmain)
****** A message from the Alzheimer’s Association: Alzheimer’s is not a red or blue issue. 73 million American voters — nearly half — know or have known someone with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. And nearly a quarter of all registered voters have served as an unpaid caregiver to a friend or relative with the disease. Alzheimer’s remains the only leading cause of death in the United States that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed — yet. Only medical breakthroughs can change that. The Alzheimer’s Association is committed to supporting advancements in research that will lead to the first Alzheimer’s survivor. With 4 in every 5 voters supporting an increase in federal funding for Alzheimer’s research, Congress should make the same commitment. Learn more at alz.org/askcongress. ******
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